(Reblogged and rewritten, added on and some taken back, but not regretted…)
After given it much thought I found it so necessary to make a short article about my years in music. I do not care about Step One Records etc. much anymore. Anyway, there are a few corrections I have to inform fans of the label about. (Being cool and diverse was not for free…)
I want to end some of the stupid rumours and opinions that easily get spread through the internet. (Like a band claiming to sell 5000 copies of a record that was pressed in 1000 copies. Without any promotion at all… You sad mainstream wannabees. And while at it, maybe inform some collectors that Opinionate! Records 001 is in fact Is this Heavy or what? 001. The correct circulation figures. Etceteros.)
I had a My Space page for the label, or labels if you wish, but I got bored with it after a few months, and irritated at crap bands posting their junk on that page, so this is what you get from me instead… Enjoy it like fresh air.
Anyway, I started a bit late with listening to music. I was in my early teens and kept myself mostly occupied with sports and comic books when I started to take interest in music, mainly hardrock and metal. I did a fanzine called Heavy Rock in the impressive amount of two issues. (Printed copies for issue 1 (Released in January -86) is 750 copies and for issue 2 (Released in January -87) is 4000. Total sales amounted to about 500 for the first issue and around 3000 for the second. (I threw most of the remaining copies in a container some four years later on.) The first issue looks awful, and the reason is that I thought it would be so much easier to improve issue by issue if I started it crappy… (That would be true, yeah…) The main reason for starting it was that there was no active magazine in Sweden for this music at the time. This was in a time when there was plenty of space to start up something somewhat new and people would actually be interested. Both issues should have been released the year before to make any sense. (If I had any sense at the time I would just have scrapped the whole project.) I have “always” liked fanzines. It is often very personal and can be quite charming.
I remember that after the second issue things were moving up quickly. Nearly everyone was very positive and liking it more than I could find it worth. I remember looking at it and wondering if it really was that good? It was not. I can assure you that. I then got a job at a record label in Stockholm, they mostly handled licensing and had a small distribution, they were impressed with my efforts until they learned that I did not do the layout for my fanzine… It did not work out after a while with finding an apartment, and there was some personality clashes. There was alot of advice from some people at major labels and magazines and such on how I should act and portray my “image”. Some of these advices was always contradicting and it went something like this: You should do this and that. You have to keep your good reputation. Do not talk with the normal fans. If you write then you can not be in a band. If you start your own crummy little label then you can not work with any writing or any record labels anymore. It was some kind of thinking in the mainstream society at the time that if you did something, like being in a band, then it would never work for you to start a fanzine or do anything else. It was not allowed to sit on more than one chair… It was only in punk you could do these things and get away with it. It got better and in the early 90’s that was all gone with the wind and went to the other extreme.
The third issue was ready to be printed, and that one looked really good and had some strong content, but it all became like work for a while around that time. Listening to music like I had become a professional… I wanted to keep “the magic of music” and not understand it cold hearted. Now, when I look back and see the loyalty to the music it seems so stupid. The thinking that you got so much from the bands and music was just imagination. Some live for music. I did it myself for a few years. That is truly pitiful. We have to offer ourselves something higher in life than entertainment. (Real art and real progression in music as a whole is excused from this.)
Got an offer myself from the biggest Magazine in this type of Music and to write a sort of “scene-report” with all Scandinavian acts twice a month and some extras to add to that, if I didn’t do anything else. Well, I had other plans that I wanted to pursue that later on never really happened. (And people believe that I am clever all the time….) I turned it down for some people started to get upset when I told them about it… I felt I wasn’t ready for that step into a bigger world and that I had not “paid my dues” to be at that level just yet. When I changed my mind, or more like found my head again about a week later, the offer was gone. I was brought up on that magazine a few years before this, so of course it was a big deal. (Well, I have never been much of a fanboy to anything to be honest, so even if I found some stuff I really liked back then it was “something to do” more than anything.) That was my “close to becoming a household name for metalheads worldwide at seventeen years of age-story”. After that, and some other things that actually happened, I landed back in my bubble that punctured after a while. Pathetic as all this is to tell for the very first time since back then, it might be somewhat interesting for some to hear it as it was. All of these “Things-that-did-not-happen” is a small, but quite interesting list. I did however fulfill one music journalist goal with writing for Metal Forces two years later. Dave C. (From Shades, you know…) totally rewrote my only article that made print…
It was the slowest of years, listening to music and only doing something when the “scene” “needed” something to happen. The hardrock and metal scenes with the search for the most competent musicanship, some of those bands in their clownish clothes with dumb sing-a-long verses and sticky choruses did get annoying after a while. I was never really “inside” that scene. I listened to the music and looked away from the rest. Thrash on the other hand was more down-to-earth and a bit more progressive at the time and took over the core of the scene. It was not a trend, it was more down to a few good albums over a number of years that finally set it ablaze as a bigger scene. Much like with the new Death Metal scene. (As I see it, when there was few good albums released and too much mediocre records coming out, then every music scene I have seen have rightfully withered away and collapsed. Remember industrial metal and grunge? Anyone?) The Death Metal scene can never compare with how big the Thrash Metal scene was. The bigger Thrash bands sold millions of copies and entered high up in the Billboard charts and played arenas. The few “big” DM bands sold a small fraction of that and played clubs for 2-500 people at their height. I never tapetraded, found little point in copying bands releases for free to other people. It felt wrong. I wanted the original stuff or not at all. I did videotrade a few years and I remember how that started up. I bought videotapes with concerts and paid a quite high sum per minute for it at times, so I needed to get back my money with doing a copy or copies. Then I started to videotape small gigs and it started rolling for a while. Probably I made some small money of it to feed my own video collection. The thing with bootlegs, be it on vinyl or video is that it spreads the bands name and reputation, so they are in agreement with it, as long as there is no real market. I even helped taking the sound off one of my videotaped concerts to press a bootleg or two to the bands themselves… No names mentioned, but I can say that it makes the band look bigger if there are bootlegs surfacing. It really is a sad and pitiful world, for the most part…
I was never really competitive with anything in life. I wanted to stay with DIY and underground and not make any evil profits. (Not that the mainstream wished for my support in any way…) Supporting the music was a cause set over supporting myself or any tiny bits of ego that I might have had. Actually, I even doubt that I had even tiny bits of ego. Seriously.
Guess I found the underground “cooler” without thinking about it at all. That is why you make a choice for whatever you imagine, seeing that in effect in full daylight and looking at the world, it is all more than a little ridiculous… The “other given choice” was the really geeky mainstream that is a machine of “society” where you get fed without any choice and you better just swallow whatever and feel that you really are free and partake in “The Big Nothing”. So, I might regret every second of my years with music, still there was much worse and more stupid choices to make…
When the 80’s ended almost everyone was so glad it was over, all that horrible music, junk litterature and dumb clothes and just about everything was a complete joke, and for about three or fours years there was some very slight improvement. Probably that the production tools reached a new height… Then, it all went downhill, like downhill seen from the floor of a bottomless cave… Many people now look at the worthless 80’s like that was something good. Wake up. Wake up and see that the poor masses here and now are equally fooled and geeky in everything like in that decade, or let me truthfully say the last 800 years or so, in absolutely everything. Straying from the subject? It is all connected.
My first release was a vinyl EP with four thrash bands and it took two long years before I did the second release. (Some things are just so successful that you can live on them for a very long time… ) It was DIY efforts with the bands paying for some of the copies to spread and sell themselves.
Step One Records really started up with the Furbowl “Those Shredded Dreams” CD, and a year later with the Morpheus “Son of Hypnos” CD. (I visited the Unicorn studio when “Son of Hypnos” was recorded and it sounded a bit strange. The band told me that the producer had his own ideas about the recording process. That it would somehow end up great in the final mixing. The producer also perspirated like there was no tomorrow available. The drummer tried to change the sound for the drums several times and the producer just changed it back…) It is so poorly produced that I hesitated to release it at the time. On the other hand I already had paid 12 000 SKR in total for it to be recorded. So, what should I have done? Anyway, some really like it. That band and their ambition to be a bit different from the rest of the scene was right up my alley. (Still, to refuse to have Sunlight Studio written on the “In the arms of…” release when it was recorded there was pretty lame of them.)
To continue on the lame path… I have been getting annoyed with the new release for this album that takes forever and I gave up on it. I withdrew my liner notes and publish them here instead. I just do not want my name on that album. It actually is bootlegged! I bought a copy some time ago and I really have no comments about it.
Looking back in time I think MORPHEUS remembers me. After all, I did their two releases and booked them for several concerts that I arranged. The first time I heard them was after they had recorded four tracks in Sunlight Studio and was rushed the tape from their guitarist Rudberg, with giving a promise that I would not spread it. A copy only for me that I listened carefully to. I thought that this actually was good enough for me to work with. A rare moment in my life seeing that I was a bit picky about the quality of bands I worked with. They had to have a high standard musically and be somewhat original or otherwise interesting. Nobody knew about MORPHEUS existence and here I sat in my room with this stunningly good recording of temporary Stockholm Death Metal to make it lasting. Even though the lyrics was a bit iffy here and there, this was a no-brainer to release.
Before MORPHEUS took off I had met Rüdén, the drummer, a few times in the past. He played with CARBONIZED while the other guys were in EXHUMED. EXHUMED were smart enough to stop spreading around the ”Obscurity” demo after MORPHEUS came to be. (Frankly, neither early CARBONIZED or EXHUMED were anything to brag about musically.) MORPHEUS understood how the underground worked. After all, they came and asked me to release them when it was good enough for most of the more known underground labels out there… They were really committed to their band and worked hard on song structure and rehearsed until it could compete in the real world outside their dreams. MORPHEUS knew they were good enough to skip by ”the demo-stage” and go directly onto vinyl and they wanted to do things differently. I like that. We all like that.
”In the arms of…” was a great piece of underground vinyl. (I don’t care who released it.) Some complain about the cover, but they are just posers anyway. I actually got a guy from the company that handled the Swedish distribution to say that I should try to do more blood on my releases as ”the kids” bought that. I really loathed that type of sensationalist seeking junk, not to mention the scum that sat and exploited the Death Metal Movement and slowly killed it by selling it to whoever and wherever. Truthfully, the Swedish Death Metal movement really started to happen as an underground phenomenon in Stockholm first and foremost and was the stronghold until the end of it. MORPHEUS really was Stockholm Death Metal when it all had became a little too crowded with dozens of bands and perhaps that is why they tried to escape a bit from it, branding their music; ”Fusionized Straight Death” and wearing Champion and FNM shirts on their band photos. At this time Swedish Death Metal was the first and only genre where Sweden stood in the first line for progression of music and it had become an attractive alternative lifestyle for many to live.
It was interesting to see the few local hardcore fans of MORPHEUS at the concerts and how they responded to the music. Something I had taken part in had sunk in to others in a big way. I would guess that it is like that for all that work closely with bands, and the bands themselves, when they see that others have hooked on to what they are doing. A little amazement at first for the appreciation and then realizing that they are up on ”the next level” as a band.
Speaking of amazement… I witnessed Brink doing his vocals for the song ”Inner conflict” in a rare recording with my project band TRIBE OF PERILS. We, the rest of the band, sat in a sofa in the same room when he started his singing. It was just immensely powerful. Brink thought our collective stunned reaction was to that he looked a bit strange when he sang, as he had heard that before. This was more the sheer power and sound of his voice. I would say that he was one of, if not the very best growler in the Swedish scene and beyond, at the time.
My memory is not blurred by any alcohol or anything else, so I do remember the most interesting happenings clearly. Like when ”Son of Hypnos” was to be recorded and I shelled out here and there for things and I visited them in their rehearsalroom where I was a bit taken with the structure, technicality and aggressive speed of their new songs. A step up from ”In the arms of…”. I really was looking forward to making this album. Pretty convinced that this would be a piece of art that would make them a known band within the movement. They refused to enter Sunlight Studio again and that was a mistake, knowing fully well that they really knew how to produce Death Metal there. So… They booked this little known studio called Unicorn that had recorded some goofy rock stuff and was good for that. I was a bit sceptic and then when they started to record and I got reports on how things were progressing I really had to go there and see what was up with all this. The studio itself was nice and clean… Then I met the producer… I listened to what they had recorded so far and I felt a chill down my spine when I stood there. What is wrong with the sound? I looked around and it was like they had accepted that it sounded like this and it would be sorted in the final mix. I felt something was not right there and then. When the recording and mixing was ready I didn’t get a tape to hear it as the producer said that he thought that I might steal the recording and use it from the cassette to print the CD… Most likely he was afraid that I would refuse to pay if I heard the finished recording and mixing first. I then met up with him and two members of the band down in the subway in Stockholm and paid cash for the recording and got the Mastertape together with a cassette. Went home to Uppsala and listened to it and had that same chill down my spine again. The songs were really good. No question about that. But the strange production made it all sore. Here we had a band that was musically talented and wanted to try out a different way of recording to achieve something new and interesting, with a producer that was clueless about Death Metal and had a few ”psychological issues”.
I swallowed hard and listened to the album a few times and it wasn’t that bad after all… Either way, it was half-baked and to really push it as I had originally planned and intended was out of the question. We managed to get it a little better during the mastering, but… It did get some really good reviews to our relief, for example in Close-Up Magazine. The first pressing sold out in a few months and nearly everyone seemed somewhat happy with the album. A second pressing was done and that more or less sold out after some more months.
Brink lived very close to me in Stockholm, so I did see MORPHEUS pass me by in Hornstull at times. I remember that sometime after the second pressing of ”Son of Hypnos” that they all came over to my place a Friday evening and sat around on the floor while I was sitting on my small sofa. They wanted to get money from me for sold copies that they counted on that they should get. They didn’t get any money, or too little. They picked up some free copies of some of my releases and stuff that I had laying around that they could have. They, or rather one of them, also borrowed some records and said he would return them in a week or so. That was the last time I saw most of them. I guess we are even then?
”Since then I’ve come on evil days
and most of life is hell;
But even swine have winsome ways
when once you know them well.”
From ”Hobo” by R. Service
They split up the band later that year and started with other projects. Death Metal had just died more or less and there was really nowhere to go within the genre. MORPHEUS left a name within the movement that could have, really should have, been much wider recognized.
If we just had let this album become branded by Sunlight…, then ”Son of Hypnos” would have been one of the milestones of Swedish Death Metal, and that is no exaggeration at all. It is true that sometimes you have to take a chance. It could have worked. Now, somewhere around twenty years ago today, we have another chance with a new re-mastered release of ”Son of Hypnos” that hopefully and rightfully will establish MORPHEUS to be remembered by more people as one of the greatest bands within what once was Swedish Death Metal.
Jörgen Sigfridsson for Opinionate! and Step One Records
23/10 in Athens, Hellas
I moved from my hometown Uppsala, to a town called Stockholm that is situated some 10 miles south. At that time I had more or less stopped with the “metal thing” again. It was really getting boring. Most of the bands repeating themselves in a formula, something like the underground-mainstream.
Signed two “alternative to the mainstream” bands that insisted on calling themselves Hoarse and The Robots and released their debut albums. They refused to write hits so it sold a little and not enough. Seriously, both those albums sold quite well for being on a small alternative label. The Robots sold an impressive 7-800 copies of “Music you will listen to over and over again” in Stockholm alone.
(The trick for selling big amounts of anything is to fool people that its good. After that is achieved people will look at it, or listen to it, as it is good and there we have it. Sadly you have to have the right connections and make the right decisions if you want to succeed. Basically you have to become scum to succeed with anything. The tables will turn someday and thus I will become the most mainstream being in the world. Or, something like that…)
I wrote a tiny bit for a slick magazine called Metal Zone that there is much to be said about how it was run. I had more or less stopped listening to metal (Repeating myself to clarify how far removed from metal I was at that point.) when I was asked to write about “extreme metal” bands. I listened more to Industrial, EBM, “alternative rock” and even some pop. So, being nice and polite and mostly in need of something to keep my mind away from thinking too deep, I kindly agreed. I did not have a computer so I had to write it by hand and fax in the pages for someone to write the articles in. It was always a real horror to see the ready product later on with misspellings and often parts taken out or re-arranged. (Not that I wrote that amazing, but anyway.) The choices of the majority of the bands to appear on the covers and in the magazine was more or less out of sync with what was really interesting at the time. Apart from that, and some really geeky “true metal” intruders snapping space that I anyway didn´t care for in the magazine. Calling themselves “Satanists” or “Luciferians” and acted out as the EXACT opposite to what that REALLY is, pretty common among fools, I know… That aside it was pretty good for what it was. (Not really. But, let us pretend.)
Just found out when I googled that I apparently have named a new Death Metal act called “Under the church”. I did name Quicks and Säfströms fanzine Hang Ém High around that time. Give me the credit. I really need it.
I was releasing some more records and working on a few other things for another two years before I had to give it up. I had no lust for music at all and problems with money and other things; like myself and others. I did NOT have a bankruptcy. That could well have happened if I had continued, but my reason for quitting music was that I wanted to become an author and run a DIY book company. That went away from my mind after a while, but that is another story that you all will want to hear someday.
Some of these releases are sought after and “rare”. Generally the five first. Other releases really should be sought after, like for example Hoarse and Indisciplined Lucy. I truthfully had so much to do the following years that there was no time and space to, as most others with small bands or labels, sit and somewhat actively promote themselves on the internet. (Why most of the bands I worked with have not done that is a bit strange. It would seem that nobody cares that much. Maybe they are just so overly satisfied with their efforts of their great past.) There are some decent videos done at the time that should be on You Tube, and they are not.
What I think of these records today? I don’t really listen to music anymore unless there is a study subject in it, though I recently have started to buy back some albums I used to listen to, and for that matter, even my own releases that I sold, threw away and burned. I don’t like anything, but I have to compromise with life “as it is” for a little while longer. There you have it. My personal junk culture extravaganza is now over and I leave you with some small notes.
Epileptic music for eclectic people:
IS THIS HEAVY OR WHAT? RECORDS
Vinyl EP with Damien, Atrocity, Tribulation and Gravity -88 ITHOW? 001
Circulation: 1000 copies.
(Note that the silly “Limited Edition” thing on the back is just a inside joke.)
OPINIONATE! RECORDS -90 to -91
Vinyl EP with Appendix, Nirvana 2002, Authorize and Fallen Angel. -90 OP! 002
Circulation: 1000 copies -90. Comes with lyric sheet.
MORPHEUS “In the arms of…” -91 OP! 003
Circulation: 500 copies on black vinyl and 500 on multicoloured vinyl. (Not yellow or green as some try to get away with.) Comes with lyric sheet and sticker to be complete. It has been released as a bootleg on CD with some other tracks on it this year.
STEP ONE RECORDS -92 to -96
FURBOWL “Those shredded dreams” -92 CD STEP 004
Circulation: First pressing 1000 copies. Second pressing another 1000 copies.
(There are two re-releases for “Those shredded dreams”. Not validated by me, so there is no need to buy them.)
MORPHEUS “Son of Hypnos” -93 STEP 005
Circulation: First pressing 1000 copies. Second pressing 500 copies.
(The second pressing differ a bit with a new address in Stockholm. The photo with the fire on the back is actually a burning of the “In the arms of…” vinyl, a T-shirt and some posters with Morpheus. Photo taken by me, so I take credit for it now, 23 years later…)
HOARSE “puh!” -94 SOR 006
Circulation: First pressing 1000 copies. Second pressing 600 copies. And 400 promotional copies in plastic bags without back insert for the CD.
THE ROBOTS “Music you will listen to over and over again” -94 SOR 008
Circulation: First pressing 1000 copies. Second pressing 600 copies. And 400 promotional copies in plastic bags without the back insert for the CD.
LEUKEMIA “Grey-flannel souled” -94 SOR 008
Circulation: 1000 copies. And 400 promotional copies in plastic bags without the back insert for the CD.
(There are about ten or so copies with the back insert photocopied in black & white. I did these when there was a small demand and no copies left of the pressing. So, I took some of the promotional copies that had no back cover and made a few copies. I really don´t regret that. I also remember clearly being warned by a guy at Black Mark (Not Boss) that this band was a problem to deal with. I did not listen or care. I regret that… I did not take credit for the booklet photos and the back photo then, and I do not wish it now either…)
LIPKIN “Lipkin” -95 SOR 009
Circulation: 1000 copies.
THE ROBOTS “Songs that Satan whispered in our ears” -95 SOR MCD 10
Circulation: First pressing 1000 copies. Second pressing 500 copies. There is a pressing where 25 copies remain that just have the first four tracks on it. (There was three pressings for the first pressing… The company had some problems with the DAT and there was a deadline to catch so when the third first pressing… came and there was dropouts on it again, I took the tough executive decision to keep that one.)
(BTW No, I did not…)
BÄCKLIN “Phonesessions” -95 SOR CD 11
Circulation: 1000 copies. (This was the release when people sensed that I had lost my marbles.)
INDISCIPLINED LUCY “The Clown – EP” -96 SOR CDEP 012
Circulation: 1000 copies.
HOARSE ” Disappointed” -96 SORCDS 13
Circulation: 1000 copies.
HOARSE “Needle-point” -96 SORCD 14
Circulation: 1000 copies.
Official promotional material like photos as postcards, flyers, biographies and such was available for all releases.
FURBOWL “Desertion”, HOARSE “Nightwalking”, THE ROBOTS “Sho Kosugi” (The genious that made this video, you still owe me a real video, you bastard…) , LEUKEMIA “Blind me”, LIPKIN “Seduced” and HOARSE “Disappointed”.
(Classic Swedish Death Metal. Ask anyone that was in the scene at the time.)
(Odd from The Robots is also the only one, beside myself, found to be worthy enough to get to work for Step One Records. It also helped a little that he lived 30 meters from my place and got his salary from somewhere else.)
(Bad sound for some reason. Pretty good video, for what it is.)
(And who could forget Stairway to Hawaii, or Indisciplined Lucy as they became known as. The last record I had planned to release. I wish I had done that. Especially since it took three years for the German label I sold them to for a release with the worst looking cover imaginable. Probably the band I musically liked the most of those I worked with.)